Day 6. Sunday. Not a day of rest.
We knew it was going to be a long slog across Texas. We were leaving the Dallas Fort Worth area and headed for El Paso, the border town with not only Juarez Mexico but also with New Mexico. We were going to cross a large portion of Texas and there would be a whole lot of nothing to see on the way.
Compounding the impending boredom of the trip was leaving the relaxation and joy the entire family was experiencing with Jill and Jud and family. I wont go so far as to call them sirens but let’s just say I was being lulled during our time on the farm.
We finally got on the road when our hosts were leaving for a special birthday meal for Mike–happy birthday Mike! The time was noon and even though we would gain an hour going from Central to Mountain time, there would be no chance to score a tour of Carlsbad Caverns (last tickets issued at 230pm), nor explore the visitor center (closes daily at 5pm).
Carlsbad Caverns and the Guadalupe Mountains, both National Parks, were our two targeted stops on this all day drive (about 10 hours with stops) but as I mentioned we were not expecting anything at Carlsbad.
Compounding the seeming uselessness of a visit to Carlsbad is the park is located at the end of a 10 mile road from the main highway necessitating 20 minutes of time. As there was still light when we arrived–about 630pm–we decided to do the nature hike trail that starts from the visitor center. After walking for a few minutes we gazed upon an amphitheater that was populated by 10-20 individuals.
We made our way down to the seating area and learned this was the bat flight area where at dusk, up to 200 people listen to a ranger talk about the 200,000-400,000 bats that live in the Caverns from May to October and who on most nights leave the cave in search of food.
Dusk would come in about 90 minutes so we settled into some prime viewing seats near the edge looking down into the caverns. Having been in the car for 7 hours or so the kids didn’t mind stretching out and waiting on the stone amphitheater seats for a while but then Jules took them on a short hike while Acadia and I remained behind to save the prime real estate.
The ranger program began at 8pm and before 830 Acadia noticed the starlings, which had been coming and going on a regular basis by the dozens, went silent. Soon we saw a single bat flicker out of the caverns and make his way to the beyond. Apparently bats send scouts out to discern how the feeding grounds are for the evening. If there is a severe storm and they shouldn’t leave the cave. Maybe 10 minutes after that first scout appeared, we saw the first wave of bats exit the cavern, swarming in a vortex making their way higher and higher until they dissipated in every direction.
More than once, Hunter, Acadia, and myself felt/saw a bat fly over the very tops of our heads or inches in front of all our faces as they came out of the caverns making their way into the night. It wasn’t ‘black out the sky’ swarm but it was still pretty cool.
Adding to the effect was the nearly full moon which had started to rise and provided a perfect backdrop to see the bats rising from below in a very Halloween way.
The night was so warm, distant thunderstorms provided beautiful lightning, and the bats would continue to flood out of the caverns for hours but as the saying goes, ‘miles to go before I sleep’ so we picked ourselves up and headed for the parking lot as some of the last folks to leave.
Though it was late the kids had a hard time falling asleep and when we entered Guadalupe National Park Acadia remarked she has two National Parks named after here (Acadia and Guadalupe). Heading up the mountain in the dark I failed to see the welcome sign to the national park. The Floreski hallmark move is to always get a picture on/around the welcome sign to a national park.
I mentioned I would keep an eye out for the welcome sign coming from the other direction as we exited but as we were driving about 75 mph on those country roads I was not certain that would be possible. Well for folks who know Eva when she gets determined, nothing stops her. She was looking for the back of the opposing welcome sign and sure enough from the 3rd row she called out, ‘there it is!’.
Fortunately there were no other cards on the 4 lane highway at that point so I did a quick U-turn and stopped in front of the Guadalupe entrance sign with my headlights shining brightly. Acadia hesitated having heard in detail about rabies at the ranger program earlier in the night and uncertain what lurked just outside the cone of light emanating from our headlights. After some coaxing she went to the sign for a quick picture and then we were on our way.
It would still be a couple more hours before we reached the hotel but reach it we did and were settled in our beds just before midnight. Excited to wake up early to see the Babbs!
TOTAL DISTANCE DRIVEN: 2,149
TOTAL FAMILY SEEN: Dannah
TOTAL FRIENDS SEEN: Lauren, Emily, Jill, Jud, Hazel, Kate, Mike
TOTAL ITEMS LEFT BEHIND: Comfy black dress, collared Hunter shirt, scot tee shirt
PARKS VISITED: Washington, Arkansas State Park, Hot Springs National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Parks, Guadalupe National Park